Sonnets Summary

In the field of Universal Literature, a collection of poems, published in 1609, is known as Sonnets (Sonnets) – an edition that did not contain the first two sonnets that now include all its publications – and which the history of Literature usually ascribes to the English writer William Shakespeare.

About Shakespeare’s Sonnets

However, although these 154 poems have become some of the most important texts in the English sonnet tradition, their authorship and origin continue to be the focus of a profound debate, since several critics and historians see in some of their particularities strong indications to believe that Shakespeare is not really the author of this collection of poems, made up of stanzas that address universal themes such as Love, Death, Beauty, and even Politics.

In this sense, it is believed that these texts were written over several years, before their publication during the first decade of the seventeenth century. Although the date of their first edition is known, it is not certain whether or not the author was notified of the publication, or even whether or not the publisher used an authorized manuscript.

In addition, among some particularities in reference to the dedication of the text, there is also the enormous curiosity of this text: the surname of its author, Shakespeare, is written with a script in the middle “Shake-sperares”, this being the fact that creates greater suspicion in specialists and researchers.

Summary of Shakespeare’s Sonnets

This work is then made up of 154 poems, which have been structured as follows:

-The first part is composed of four stanzas.

– These are then followed by three serventesia (Castilian stanza, which is characterized by four verses of major art, hendecasyllabic, consonant rhyme, ABAB form).

– And thirdly, a final couplet.

Likewise, Poetics has pointed out that William Shakespeare’s Sonnets can be considered completely composed of iambic pentameters, whose rhyme would follow the abab cdcd efef gg scheme. In fact, this work has proved so forceful for universal and English poetry that by tradition this type of poetic structure began to be called Shakespearean sonnet.

As for the themes to be dealt with within the poems that make up the Sonnets, the Critics have also chosen to consider them divided into three major themes, each of which can be summarized as follows:

Sonnets from 1 to 126

This group of sonnets is addressed to a young man, the centre of the poet’s love and tenderness, whose identity constitutes one of the debates with the longest literary tradition, since the author never reveals to whom his verses are addressed, inaugurating the mystery even from the cover of the book, where he passionately writes his dedication: “Mr. W.H., the only inspirer of the following sonnets”. Consequently, there are several that specialists have considered as possible candidates to be the reason of these texts, however, they are hypotheses, because in itself there is not a single indication of certainty.

This part of the Sonnets can also be subdivided into two large groups of poems:

The first verses, ranging from poem 1 to 17, in which the poet praises the beauty of the young man to whom he writes and dedicates these sonnets, giving him as an offering some advice on the importance of settling in marriage and having offspring, so that he can pass on his great beauty to the next generation. The Critics have chosen to call this group of poems the sonnets of procreation (procreation sonnets).

For its part, the second group of sonnets will be those poems ranging from 18 to 126, and where the poet dramatically changes tone to speak to the young man, to whom the book is dedicated, in a much more romantic and intimate way, which has led many critics to point out that this book can be considered homoerotic poetry, which would reveal that the author had a relationship of this kind with the young man, or at least this was his great platonic love. In this way, this group of poems opens with poem 18, where the poet begins to give hints of what will be a passionate declaration of love, being perhaps the most evident poem number 20 where the author clearly regrets that in the center of his passion, that is, the young Mr. W.H. is not a woman. Towards the end of this group of poems, the poet talks about his relationship with Dark Lady.

Sonnets from 127 to 152

Next, the poet leaves behind the romantic tone to assume one that will be directed more to the sexual field. In this way, this part of the Sonnets will have as its central theme Dark Lady, the lyrical voice lover, whom the author describes as a woman with dark skin and hair, with whom -as can be inferred from the poems- he maintained a lustful relationship until the bond was broken by infidelity. Likewise, it is believed that Dark Lady was unfaithful to the poet with Fair Youth itself, that is, the young man to whom he writes in the first verses of the poem.

The identity of this lady has been another great debate within Literature, since while some researchers relate her to some historical characters, both from the court and from the suburbs, some others prefer to assume that she is a fictitious character, which the Poet uses to characterize lust, and contrast it with the clean love she feels towards the young man in the first verses. Consequently, the theme of the first block of poems is love, while that of this group of verses will be lust and sexual passion.

Poems 153 and 154

Finally, these two poems constitute the last part of the work Sonnets, and have traditionally been called the “allegorical” poems.

Image: portrait of William Shakespeare, author of Sonetos / Source:

Sonnets Summary
Source: Education  
October 26, 2019

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